Posts Tagged ‘ free ’

6 Online Tools and Apps to Help You Go Paperless for Tax Season

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

1099s, receipts, bank statements, tax deductions, and medical spending are just some of the documents that a family needs to pull together come tax time. The sheer amount of paper can be overwhelming but free online tools that have accompanying apps can assist with tracking expenses, storing copies of important documents safely, and capturing expenditures so you can throw away receipts.

Tax season doesn’t have to be daunting if you are good about keeping track of expenses throughout the year. Streamline your taxes by going paperless with these six helpful tools, which can be accessed through apps for your iPhone, iPad, or Android device and also on the Web.

Mint If you’re a family that struggles with budgeting or likes to account for every penny spent, Mint helps pull together your bank accounts so you can view all of your financial information at the same time. Take a look at balances and transactions on the web or on your smartphone to get a big picture view of your family’s finances.

Expensify— Technically designed to assist with expense reports, Expensify can also be used to organize a freelancer or consultant’s business expenses and helps eliminate endless receipts. Start by logging into the website to create an account and then download the mobile app to use Expensify to capture and upload receipts. Use your smartphone’s camera feature to take a picture of your receipt, fill in information such as expenditure category, add some notes, and save it in a report that can be viewed online at a later date.

SliceSlice works with your email inbox to pull information from your e-receipts and organize them all in a single, easy-to-access record of past purchases. Slice keeps a record of online purchases through e-receipts so it can instantly assist you in finding lost or forgotten deductions and receipts such as textbooks, small business expenses, and travel. Slice presents purchases in an easy-to-browse list and stores your receipts so you can print them out or take a screenshot for your records. It also allows you to download and export purchase data to a .csv file.

FreshbooksSmall business owners or consultants who need to keep track of invoices and payments will appreciate the ease of Freshbooks. This cloud accounting service makes billing painless thanks to an easy to use interface. Freshbooks helps business owners create professional invoices and then send, receive, print, and pay them too. For added convenience, Freshbooks integrates with Expensify.

Evernote—  If you’re in need of an organized, paperless tax process for your personal finance documents, Evernote can help. Scan and save documents such as receipts and financial statements, save logins for online accounts, or store contact info for tax professionals and accountants you work with. All information can be organized in a notebook or with a tag before sharing it with your spouse or partner if filing jointly.

Master Lock Vault— With so many online accounts and apps to help reduce the paper associated with tax season, it’s easy to forget each site’s login credentials. Master Lock Vault is a free service that works online through your desktop computer and a mobile app as a way to store and organize important information. It securely stores logins and passwords but also digital copies of your passport, social security card and other confidential data such as debit or PIN card numbers or online credit card account log-in information.

Closeup woman’s hand writing messages on business desk via Shutterstock



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NORAD Santa Tracker: Fun and Educational Way to Follow Santa Around the Globe

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

As Christmas draws near, the anticipation of Santa’s arrival becomes almost unbearable but the NORAD Santa Tracker is a fabulous website that allows kids to see where in the world Santa is while teaching lessons about geography at the same time. Run by The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), this real organization is a joint venture between the United States and Canada whose mission is to provide “aerospace warning includes the monitoring of man-made objects in space.” Each year the Colorado Springs based company uses radar, satellites, Santa Cams, and fighter jets to track Santa’s travels around the globe as he starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west.

Children can visit the site for the Santa Countdown Calendar to see the days until Santa’s sleigh is loaded up and ready for take off. The interactive site allows kids to click on parts of Santa’s village to see which workshops are the busiest on any give day up until Christmas Eve.

NORAD begins tracking Santa on what is Christmas Eve in the United States. By the time kids on the East Coast have woken up, Santa has already made stops in Asia. A world map shows exactly where Santa has stopped. NORAD displays the city and country of Santa’s last stop along with the arrival time to his next destination. A fast paced ticker on the site shows how many gifts have been delivered and is mind boggling for kids who still believe.

The Videos tab on the website feature footage of Santa as he traverses the globe featuring Santa and his reindeer flying over landmarks all over the globe. The videos can also be seen on NORAD’s YouTube page.

For curious kids, NORAD features a Frequently Asked Question page where parents can share how Santa is able to travel the world in a mere 24 hours, the travel route, technical specifications of Santa’s sleigh, if NORAD fighter planes ever intercept Santa, whether Santa has ever crashed, and even numbers and an email address in case they want to communication with NORAD about unanswered Santa questions.

In the years that our family has been tracking Santa, the NORAD site has become more sophisticated with additional content added each year that makes it a holiday tradition even for the non-believers.

Christmas background with Santa’s sleigh via Shutterstock


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Innovative Apps and Products to Keep Kids Safe

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The safety of our kids is a high priority and luckily there are some tech savvy tools that can help. Apps and devices help parents stay on top of recalled items that could be a danger to their family, feel reassured that your little one is sleeping soundly at night, or get helpful tips via text through your baby’s first year.

Baby monitors can provide the confidence that their little one is sleeping soundly but these days monitors feature digital video and audio so parents can have a visual of their child from afar. Innovative technology means that these baby monitors also do more such as include taking the temperature of the room and displaying it on the screen, providing a clear picture even at night thanks to night vision technology, and even playing soothing lullabies. Motorola’s MBP 36 Remote Wireless Video Baby Monitor features a gorgeous 3.5” color LCD screen and a secure signal that prevents nosy neighbors from eavesdropping into your home. Not only can parents remotely zoom in for a close up of their little one but also pan the room and tilt the camera remotely. vTech’s Safe and Sound Full Color Video and Audio Monitor is an expandable system that allows families to add up to four different cameras and watch through a split screen thanks to the Quad View Split Screen from over 1000 feet away.

Recalls Plus aids busy parents in staying on top of the most recent items recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission through a free app for iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Recalls Plus provides information about products you buy at your fingertips in order to keep your family safe. View the latest recall news from the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the Home stream.  Scan the running list to get an overview of all recalled items or tap on a listing to view it in more detail. Recall details include brand, category, manufacturer, the retailer, the period during which recalled items were sold, hazard, and any reported incidents.

Text4Baby is a free service from Johnson & Johnson that provides sends critical health information via text messages to new and expectant mothers. Texts are customized and timed according to mom’s due date and through the baby’s first year of life. 1-3 text messages are sent each week about topics like prenatal care, labor signs, breastfeeding, and symptoms to provide a little extra guidance for new moms or helpful reminders for experienced parents. To enroll in the free service, text “Baby” to 511411 or Bebe al 511411 para español.

Young Attractive Ethnic Woman Holding Her Newborn Baby via Shutterstock

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5 Disney Themed Learning Activities

Monday, May 21st, 2012

If you’re planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, chances are your kids are pretty excited about your upcoming trip.  Seize upon their excitement to sneak in a little learning. Kids will be highly motivated to complete activities involving their favorite characters or to learn more about the parks. Here are 5 wonderful websites that contain free printables and tutorials that can help you integrate learning into your upcoming Disney vacation.

  • Earlier this month, Disney launched their Spoonful site that serves as a wealth of free content available for kids of all ages on a daily basis. Visitors can always browse through the tabs- cook, create, play, and celebrate- or subscribe via email to keep up to date with the changing content.  The printables section is where to find Disney themed coloring pages that are perfect for preschoolers who are practicing fine motor skills like how to hold a pencil or crayon and coloring.  Older children will enjoy helping with Disney themed cooking activities that serve as a way to practice math and reading by having to measure ingredients and practicing sequencing to add them in the right order.
  • Creating a countdown paper chain out of paper rings not only provides younger kids with a very concrete visual about the number of days left until your trip but also gives them practice in counting backwards. has a free PDF with numbers on one side and trivia on the other to integrate a little math and reading into your pre-vacation excitement or create your own. Cut colorful strips of construction paper and have your kids practice patterning (another math skill) to create your paper chain.
  • Visit your local craft store to assemble supplies to make your own Disney autograph book. You could purchase one in-park but save yourself some money and have fun making your own with thanks to the tutorial on Juliverse.  Labeling the book with your name and address in case it get lost not only ensure that it will find its way back to you but is a way for children to practice knowing and writing their name and address.
  • Teach your kids fun facts about the parks before you leave.’s Amy Mascott created free Disney trivia printable lunchbox notes with fun facts to teach your kids a little park trivia.  Cut out the strips and put them in your child’s lunch box for a little meal time trivia or print, cut, and place in a basket on your dinner table to read them together as a family.
  • TeachMama also has free printable word searches available based on Disney characters and one for each of the following parks: Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom. These are a wonderful way to help kids practice word recognition amid the excitement over their Disney vacation.

 Mickey Mouse at a benefit screening via Shutterstock

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3 Free Sites for Online Inspiration

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The web is a treasure trove of information but where do you go for an online escape?  Houzz, Pinterest, and Polyvore are free sites that I could easily get lost in as I daydream about my home, fashion, and other treasures curated and shared by my friends.

Houzz—We bought our house always knowing that an addition was in our future.  For years, I clipped out pictures from magazines and catalogs featuring the white cabinets and granite countertops I wanted in my kitchen, the perfect blue for our master bathroom, along with light fixtures for each room in the new part of our home and filling a giant three room binder. Instead of flipping through magazines and organizing my clippings, I can do it online thanks to Houzz. Featuring interior and exterior photos from professionals and homeowners, expert articles, product recommendations, Houzz is a dream come true for home design enthusiasts. I love Houzz for the expert advice from design professionals who showcase design and decorating ideas through the site along with user generated content from homeowners who upload their favorite photos into ideabooks.

Pinterest— The visually stunning Pinterest has gone mainstream since it was first introduced in 2010 and now it’s a treasure trove for everything from holiday wish lists, witty musings, inspiration for birthday party favors, the evening’s meal, and things users covet. Search for inspiration or use it to curate things you find around the web by creating your own boards. Follow your friends to see the things they’re pinning and share your finds.

Polyvore— Whether you’re a fashionista who loves to create style boards or are in need of spicing up your current wardrobe, Polyvore is fashion eye candy.  As the web’s largest community fashion site, be inspired by the 44 million style sets created by users who select products from favorite online retailers, mix and match them into sets reflecting their style, and sharing them through blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Young woman sitting under tree via Shutterstock

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